Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson accused the Department of Justice of replacing one of the hard drives on her computer when it was in their possession.
“What would you think if I told you the hard drive of one of my personal computers was secretly switched out w/another while in the custody of the Justice Dept. Inspector General– before they gave it back to me?” Attkisson asked in a tweet on Wednesday.
She was questioned why the government had her computer in its possession, and the reporter replied that he had asked officials to look it over following her CBS News laptop being hacked by apparently an entity within the government.
Attkisson confirmed in a subsequent tweet the reason she knew this is because she had copied down serial numbers of the hard drive, motherboard and other internal parts.
In 2012, Attkisson’s work computer was hacked while she was reporting on the Benghazi scandal for CBS. She was one of the first to call into question the narrative being promulgated by the Obama administration that the attacks were the result of spontaneous uprising caused by a YouTube video.
Earlier that same year the journalist received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Video Investigative Reporting for her coverage of the DOJ’s Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning program.
CBS News spokesperson Sonya McNair stated during this time period that a cybersecurity firm had “determined through forensic analysis” that “Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012.”
“Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data,” McNair added.
“This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion. CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access,” the spokesperson said.
In her 2015 book “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” Attkisson related that the perpetrator of the breach appeared to be the government.
“(A) sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency,” she wrote, according to PJ Media.
Atkisson is suing the DOJ for allegedly illegally surveilling her computers and seeking $35 million in damages, Politico reported.
If the award-winning journalist’s suspicions about Obama’s DOJ are true, it would not be the first time the administration was accused of targeting the media for government surveillance.
The agency also secretly gathered two months worth of phone records of reporters and editors at The Associated Press in 2012.
AP CEO Gary Pruitt called that a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather news. The records revealed news-gathering operations involving confidential sources and other methods “that the government has no conceivable right to know,” he added.
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